Community leader Brenda Vallee discussed the success of local people who worked with the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) at the Natchitoches League of Women Voters meeting on May 20. Her group called in complaints and gathered information to help force an explosive waste disposal business, Clean Harbors Colfax, to clean up the toxic water in their holding pond before release into bayous and Red River. As a result, Clean Harbors was fined over $800,000 to remedy several problems including the release of poisoned water.
Vallee also explained that Clean Harbors is the largest waste disposal company in the US. This is the only private waste disposal company in the nation allowed to open burn explosive toxic waste. Considered unsafe, this technique is outlawed in all other states but permitted in Louisiana by the LDEQ.
By air, Natchitoches is 28 miles from this company. A similar type of facility open burned explosive waste near Susanville, CA. Officials drew a 50-mile radius of risk around the explosions to gather facts on the health of local people. As a result, the CA. facility was closed due to cancer clusters.
Currently, Clean Harbors is licensed to burn 500,000 pounds per year of explosives gathered from across the US. The company has applied for a 10-year permit to increase the amount to 3,000,000 pounds per year.
This open burning process releases some of the deadliest chemicals on the planet into the air of Central Louisiana. Colfax community members work with the LDEQ to monitor air, soil, and water to help assure safety. Citizens have requested an enclosed burn unit with filters like the equipment used to destroy explosive toxic waste in Minden. They have also identified other techniques Clean Harbors could use, including hydrolysis and detonation chambers, designed to keep the air clean and community members safe.
Vallee’s group currently conducts health studies to determine how Colfax community members have been affected. The web link below shows areas around Colfax that have a higher incidence of cancer than the average rates of both Louisiana and US. The Colfax area had an increase in cancer over last year.
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The goal of the Natchitoches League of Women Voters is to help community members learn more about local government, and to increase public participation in voting. This group is non–partisan but pro-voting and civic education.